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Agriculture Today

Legislation includes ‘cattle gas tax’ exemptions

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Wilson County News
July 21, 2009 | 3,834 views | 2 comments

Farmers and ranchers have been discussing the cattle gas tax since the proposed taxation was introduced in July 2008, because of changes in the Clean Air Act. For the past year, the ag industry has been given a reprieve. Producers find themselves once again facing the possibility of being assessed a fee for greenhouse gas emissions.

An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruling in December gave farmers and ranchers an exemption regarding air releases of hazardous substances from animal waste at their locations. In April, an announcement by the EPA administrator that six greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, were found to “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations,” had the exemption in limbo. Since that time, legislation has been submitted to assist the ag industry.

The beginning
In July 2008, a 100-tons-per-year emissions threshold was announced in the Federal Register.

At present, Title V permits are required for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations emitting 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

With the 2008 proposal, small operations, including dairy facilities with more than 25 cows, beef cattle operations consisting of more than 50 head, swine operations of more than 200 hogs, and farms with more than 500 acres of corn, may have to get the Title V permit.

With this announcement, the American Farm Bureau Federation -- using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s observation -- said that methane would be included in some form of regulation. From this, the Farm Bureau calculated the cost per animal at $175 per dairy cow, $87.50 per head of beef cattle, and $21.87 per hog. Farmers with more than 500 acres of corn will also be subject to the “cattle gas tax.” An estimated two million farms and ranches in the United States would be subject to the greenhouse gas legislation.

The Farm Bureau also warned that the EPA has proposed exempting agricultural sources, “yet failed to include this provision in the final rule.” Since that time, exemption rulings have been discussed.

At least four different bills, including HR 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, have included an agriculture-industry exemption from the greenhouse gas fees.

One of the first bills, Senate Bill 527, by Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, was introduced in March. This preventive means would have stopped the once-proposed cattle gas tax once and for all. The bill was referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works March 5.

U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt of Kansas presented an amendment to the House Appropriations Committee that prevented the EPA from regulating livestock as a greenhouse gas source. This amendment included carbon dioxide and methane.

Rick Krause, a senior director for congressional relations with the American Farm Bureau Federation, confirmed the Tiahrt amendment was discussed in the 2010 Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies’ appropriations bill. This bill prohibits funding in fiscal year 2010 only, he said.

According to a July 1 Texas Farm Bureau release, “the provision blocks the EPA from mandating Clean Air Act permits for greenhouse gases emitted by livestock, including carbon dioxide and methane.”

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association July “Cattlemen’s Capitol Concerns” listed a Senate amendment by Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas that failed. This amendment, if passed, would have exempted cattle operations from the greenhouse gas emissions fees and restrictions under an EPA registry.

Krause also confirmed that a provision exempting the ag industry from the greenhouse gas emissions fees and restrictions is included in HR 2454. This bill, approved in the House June 26, or a similar bill, will soon be discussed in the Senate.

In a summary of HR 2454 from the Web site, the bill amends the Clean Air Act to 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually from stationary sources.

Who will pay?
Ag industry affected if the exemptions are not approved include:
•Dairy operations with more than 30 cows comprise 98.8 percent of milk production.
•Beef operations with more than 50 head comprise 89.4 percent of beef inventory.
•Hog operations with more than 500 hogs comprise 96.8 percent of hog inventory.
Source: American Farm Bureau Federation/USDA publication “Farms, Land in Farms, and Livestock Operations, 2007 Summary” National Agricultural Statistics Survey (February 2009)

Your Opinions and Comments

T Bone  
July 30, 2009 10:01am
I know a guy by the name of Ben that produces more gas after eating one raw turnip than all of the cattle in Wilson County combined.

July 30, 2009 7:01am
What is the federal goverment going to do about their millions of Deer, moose, elk, wild hogs, horses that have gas? What about all the city zoo's in this country with their animal gas problem? How about the parks and wild ... More ›

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